Cleaning Conversations: Ben Walker

In this episode of Cleaning Conversations, we spoke to Ben Walker, COO of ManageMen about how the pandemic has impacted ManageMen’s training and events, shifts and opportunities he sees for the cleaning industry and the most valuable advice he’s ever received. If you have anything to do with cleaning in a facility beyond your home or are interested in strategies to improve public health, you won’t want to miss this insightful conversation.

The Case Against Spraying Disinfectant Everywhere

Raise your hand if you’ve seen a picture of a heavily suited worker spraying what’s assumed to be disinfectant on sidewalks and streets in the past four months.

It looks something like this:

For cleaning professionals, this image might be somewhat alarming. Mostly because it demonstrates what we already know—that the majority of people throughout the world have limited understanding of the science of cleaning. 

Yet, when the general public sees images like this, they assume it’s what’s required to protect them from COVID-19. 

This gap in knowledge has led to widespread use (misuse?) of chemical disinfectants. Unnecessary use of cleaning chemicals generates waste, cost and can lead to injury to both the people applying the disinfectants and the individuals in the buildings being cleaned in the wake of the current pandemic. 

In short, spraying disinfectant everywhere—throughout schools, daycare centers, offices, hotels and restaurants—is a bad idea. 

Let us explain. 

A Health & Safety Issue

If it were just a few images circulating that misrepresent what’s truly needed to stop COVID-19 in its tracks, that’d be one thing, but the lack of education around proper disinfection practices is leading to injuries. 

One recent report found that at the Adelanto Detention Facility in California, guards were “rampantly spraying [disinfectants]… every 15-30 minutes around housing units. The sprayed chemicals are coming into contact with individuals’ eyes, noses, mouths, skin, clothing, bedding, food and drinking water, on an ongoing basis.” 

From headaches and nausea too painful blistering of the skin and swollen eyes, noses and throats, detainees housed in these areas experienced a variety of physical reactions from the misuse of the disinfectants. 

Sadly, this is not an isolated incident. In April, the CDC reported that calls to poison control hotlines for cases involving cleaners and disinfectants rose significantly over the previous two years. 

Insurance Journal magazine recently reports that in an average business, disinfectant overuse can impact up to 10 percent of people. 

“Asthmatics, migraine sufferers, those with allergies or immune disorders or suppressed immune systems may experience symptoms [resulting from disinfectant exposure] such as memory loss, trouble concentrating, mood swings, irritability, headaches, seizures, nausea and vomiting,” said Dr. Claudia Miller, an immunologist, allergist and co-author of Chemical Exposures: Low Levels and High Stakes.

While there’s cause for concern, it’s important to recognize that disinfecting is important when it’s done properly using tested application methods. In pictures such as that shown above, spraying and fogging technology is used. However, emerging research has shown that these methods may not offer the efficacy of more traditional spray and wipe methods. As such, use of these methods should be reconsidered until additional testing is conducted. 

Citing ineffectiveness and health concerns, the World Health Organization recently recommended against the use of spraying or fogging disinfectants for use against COVID-19. In their guidance document, they wrote:

“In indoor spaces, routine application of disinfectants to environmental surfaces by spraying or fogging (also known as fumigation or misting) is not recommended for COVID-19… spraying disinfectants can result in risks to the eyes, respiratory or skin irritation and the resulting health effects. Spraying or fogging of certain chemicals, such as formaldehyde, chlorine-based agents or quaternary ammonium compounds, is not recommended due to adverse health effects on workers in facilities where these methods have been utilized.”

Similarly, the Cleaning Industry Research Institute (CIRI) has also advocated against fogging and misting, in their recent recommendation, “Guidance for Decontamination of the Built Environment: Cleaning, Disinfection, Worker Protection and Post Cleaning and Remediation Assessment.”

Old Problem, Renewed Awareness

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, we had a chemical handling issue on our hands. This post and infographic from a few years ago offers some important data around chemical accidents and injuries to workers. In pre-pandemic days, cleaning workers were experiencing an estimated 83,000  injuries from cleaning chemicals each year. Cleaning chemicals are a regular culprit in poor indoor air quality findings. 

But as businesses across the country begin the process of reopening, communication and  education around cleaning, cleaning science and cleaning for health is more critical than ever. Science must continue to drive our best practices, which we should regularly benchmark with other organizations and communicate with building owners and occupants. Cleaning workers not only tools to do the job, they need the education, training and personal protective equipment to use those tools effectively.

Here are five important things to remember when disinfecting any space, for COVID-19 or otherwise. Intensive disinfection efforts must be:

1) Conducted only after surfaces have been thoroughly cleaned.

2) Performed by trained staff.

3) Accompanied with the proper personal protective equipment.

4) Conducted in well-ventilated areas. 

5) Coupled with other mitigation strategies, such as social distancing and regular hand washing. 

If you use a systematic, engineered approach to cleaning like (OS1), there won’t be a need to spray disinfectant everywhere. And remember, effective cleaning contributes to a healthy indoor environment; it doesn’t pose additional health risks. 

In This Together: Tips for Coordinating Cleaning as Buildings Reopen

“We’re in this together” is a frequent refrain of the past two months. From the pandemic to protests, people share these words to express solidarity and unity throughout the many challenges facing our communities right now. 

Within the Simon Institute, (OS1) leaders have been working together throughout the pandemic to share best practices and strategies. However, as federal, state, tribal and local officials in both the public and private sectors move to Opening Up America again, it’s time that we expand our cooperation if we haven’t already. 

It goes without saying that we play a critical role in the effort to protect the people who live, work in and visit the buildings we clean. In fact, the U.S. EPA has recently issued a statement emphasizing the need to continue cleaning and disinfection practices to reduce exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19. 

But we can’t do this alone. Through ongoing communication and effective partnerships with key stakeholders, we can work together to keep buildings clean and disinfected. Click here to read the full blog post that identifies who would should be talking to right now and what we should be discussing. 

WHO: Administration 


WHAT TO DISCUSS: Organizations want additional cleaning, but many are not adjusting their scope of services and budgets accordingly. Custodial professionals should be prepared to have conversations about the need for additional resources. This includes being able to identify costs associated with additional cleaning products, labor, PPE and training to ensure buildings are cleaned in a way that keeps everyone safe. 

WHO: Internal Reopening Teams

Teams might include facility managers, safety directors, human resources, marketing and other key administrative professionals within the organization. 

WHAT TO DISCUSS: Make sure your team is involved in helping coordinate efforts as buildings reopen. In these meetings, you’ll want to communicate plans for staffing, cleaning frequencies and any resources you have available through existing supply chain relationships. This might include access to wipes, hand sanitizer and additional cleaning products. 

You might also work with marketing and communications to help create communication tools for building occupants. 

WHO: Building occupants

WHAT TO DISCUSS: When clearly communicating cleaning programs with building occupants, you not only help build peace of mind, but you can also help improve the effectiveness of cleaning programs. 

Topics to address may include: 

  • Any disinfectant/wipes sharing programs to assist in cleaning personal spaces
  • Highlights of the (OS1) System and approach 
  • Specific high-touch areas located throughout the building
  • Dust control initiatives, which limit the potential for the virus that causes COVID-19 to remain suspended in the air by attachment 
  • Requests to clean off desks, conference tables and other surfaces in communal areas to improve cleaning effectiveness

WHO: Distributors

WHAT TO DISCUSS: As a general rule of thumb, you want to avoid overstocking and plan on two units (or two full orders) of critical inventory for consumables, chemicals, and tools. This includes germicidal cleaner, vacuum filters, and pro-duster sleeves. Distributors in the industry have experienced extreme disruption with shortages of supply. Many of the raw materials that we rely upon in the United States come from China – and since China has been experiencing their own pandemic-related challenges, it’s been hard to get those raw materials. Things that we take for granted – plastice bottles, spray nozzles, even microfiber in some instances are going to have longer lead times for the next few months. Stocking up now, and maintaining a lean, but effective inventory will help your operation reduce its overall impact on supply.

Ongoing communication is critical as we work together to keep our buildings safe and healthy  for everyone.

What an Amazing Time to Be in Our Industry

You know the adage “hindsight is 2020”? I’ve been thinking about that a lot recently. Ultimately, the saying speaks to the fact that it’s easy to see what the right thing to do was after an event happens, but difficult to predict the future. 

When we get to the other side of this pandemic and are five or 10 years in the future, what will the events of 2020 look like? Will the industry effectively have captured its moment, helping the public understand the critical role that cleaning plays in protecting public health? 

When people go back to work, will they start to look at the person cleaning the restroom or mopping their office lobby in the eye and possibly even say “thank you”?

When budgets are cut due to funding shortfalls, will cleaning be one of the last departments to feel the pinch, because there’s an understanding that cleaning is essential to helping stop the spread of deadly viruses?

Forced to show that they’re cleaning and not polluting the indoor environment, will more custodial teams put key performance indicators in place and do a better of measuring their efforts and possibly benchmarking them against other programs as we do in (OS1)?

Will janitors and custodians finally drop off the list of occupations with the most injuries, because there’s greater value for the work they perform and a desire to help people work more safely?

From custodial directors to distributor sales representatives, janitors to equipment salesman—when someone asks what we do for a living, will we proudly recognize our affiliation with the cleaning industry? 

Will hindsight truly be 2020?

From the Frontlines: Michigan State University

Keeping academics, students and faculty safe has always been a priority for Brandon Baswell and the custodial team at Michigan State University, but the coronavirus and COVID-19 have definitely impacted the way they clean, train, staff and budget. Brandon shares some excellent insights on what’s happening now, and how they’re planning for the fall, in our second episode of Cleaning Conversations. 

“You can’t do ANYTHING if you don’t have a clean and healthy environment.”

Brandon Baswell, Michigan State University

From the Frontlines: Los Angeles Habilitation House Talks (OS1) and Cleaning for COVID-19

There’s no shortage of information and news available related to COVID-19 and steps individuals can take to reduce its spread through actions like hand washing, social distancing and wearing masks.

As businesses begin to reopen, we will be talking to the cleaning teams who have been on the frontlines throughout the early weeks of the pandemic. What challenges have they faced and how are they changing their approaches to accommodate both teams and their clients?

Our friends Nancy Albin and Guido Piccarolo from Los Angeles Habilitation House discuss how the (OS1) System prepared them for the current pandemic and the changing perception of the importance of cleaning in maintaining the health of people in a building.

The Future of Cleaning and Hygiene

Cleaning professionals, start your engines. 

We’re at the starting line of one of the most important races of our lives. Never before have people paid so much attention to how cleaning is performed. As a profession, we’re stepping out of the shadows and onto the stage as people start to understand that cleanliness isn’t just about what you see, but also about what you don’t see. 

In “Science, Cleaning and the Built Environment,” cleaning scientist Dr. Michael Berry stated, “Effective cleaning is not widely recognized as a form of insurance or that ineffective cleaning has a high cost in the long term.”

With the coronavirus and this pandemic, that has changed. People now see the critical importance of effective cleaning, because public health safety is at stake.

Whether you’re an (OS1) user or someone who stumbled on this blog post looking for ideas on how to better clean your facility, you can bet that once we get through this pandemic, people will be asking a lot more questions about your cleaning program. As we stated in this post, the business case for better cleaning has never been stronger; and evidence of this paradigm shift is popping up all around us. 

Cleaning Takes the Stage

Last week, Delta Airlines introduced “Delta Clean”—their “new standard of airline cleanliness—now and always.” In a video announcing the initiative, Delta’s Chief Customer Experience Officer Bill Lentsch discusses the various steps Delta plans to take to improve the cleanliness of its planes. 

Delta rolls out “Delta Clean” a new standard of cleanliness.

A recent article in National Geographic suggested that to fight germs wherever you go, you  should ask about “cleaning practices” at hotels. 

“Before you book a hotel or a vacation rental, ask about the cleaning process. Often, the answer will give you a clear idea of whether or not this is a place you want to stay.” – Jason Tetro, microbiologist and author of the book The Germ Code.

Singapore has developed a stamp that helps visitors and locals easily identify hotels and other businesses that achieved a standard level of cleanliness. The “SG Clean” stamp is placed prominently at the entrance of an establishment and designed to give people “peace of mind,” says Keith Tan, CEO of the Singapore Tourism Board. They aim to eventually certify more than 37,000 establishments. 

On April 9, the Google Doodle (the fun logo updates you can find on the Google homepage used to commemorate holidays and special occasions) was changed to a person holding a mop and bucket to recognize cleaning workers—this feels like a moment, right?

The Future of Cleaning

Products. Processes. Training. Measurement. These four key critical pieces of EVERY cleaning program will be the subject of scrutiny once buildings start to reopen. People will need peace of mind that they can step into buildings without concern of contamination. 

This is good news for (OS1) users! There’s a good chance you can speak to each of these elements better than you can recall certain family members’ birthdays. From training to annual audits, the (OS1) System ensures that people understand not only HOW to clean, but WHY we clean. 

If you’re not an (OS1) user, you need to be prepared to speak to cleaning processes, products, training and measurement protocols. 

People will want to know what products and processes are used, and how cleaning performance is measured. Are you ready for that challenge? 

Cleaning in the Age of Coronavirus

Right now, cleaning and disinfection is a focus for people around the world because of the coronavirus. For people in our industry, this is somewhat of a seminal moment — we’ve arrived at a place where there’s greater appreciation and understanding for the importance of the work we do. Of course, we wish it didn’t take something like a pandemic happening to get here, but we’re thrilled to see that the message is being heard.

When we get to the other side of this, there’s little question that the world of cleaning will change. Already, Singapore is implementing mandatory cleaning standards, beginning with “higher-risk premises such as childcare and eldercare facilities, schools and hawker centers [food courts and markets], according to Channel News Asia

Combined with social distancing, cleaning is the next most effective way to control coronavirus. 

The thing is, cleaning needs to be done correctly, or else it’s not effective.

In the future, we can expect government standards around this to ensure cleaning is done properly. For now, it’s left to each cleaning professional and organizations to make sure they’re following best practices.

Here’s what we know (with some great links to help explain things!):

  • The coronavirus spreads by hard surfaces or fomites. The most recent research found that it lasts on hard surfaces such as stainless steel for up to two-three days. 
  • Cleaning workers form a critical line of defense in helping to stop the chain of infection, killing the virus on the surface before it has the opportunity to jump to the next host/hosts. 
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE) is essential to protecting cleaning workers. Follow guidelines from the CDC, which includes using gloves and gowns and understanding how to don (put on), use and doff (take off) PPE. 
  • OSHA requires training for all workers who use cleaning chemicals and disinfectants. All organizations should maintain Safety Data Sheets on ALL cleaning chemicals used in their facilities. 
  • Not all “cleaning” kills coronavirus. It’s critical that people understand the difference between cleaning, sanitizing and disinfection, explained in full here.
  • Remember, clean first — then disinfect. A disinfectant will never work on a visibly dirty surface. Clean using a cotton or microfiber cloth—never a paper-based product.
  • Read the directions! Each EPA-approved disinfectant used for killing coronavirus indicates the dwell time, or the time the surface needs to remain visibly wet, in order to be effective.
  • Hand washing is everything. Make sure workers wash their hands before they begin cleaning and immediately after removing gloves. 
  • We must work together. Encourage individuals throughout the facility to assist with cleaning and disinfection of frequently touched surfaces, including tables, doorknobs, light switches, handles, desks, toilets, faucets, sinks, per CDC recommendations.
  • Communication is key. Make sure to communicate what you’re doing with stakeholders in your buildings. Share images on social media to help people at home see how hard your facility is working to keep buildings clean for their return. 

We’ll get through this; effective cleaning is essential in that effort. And when we do get to the other side, we hope there will be a much broader appreciation for the critical work that cleaners, janitors, housekeepers, environmental service workers and other cleaning professionals do in protecting the health of the public. 

We’ll be holding FREE training around chemical handling in the coming week. Sign up to our newsletter for dates and times.

Coronavirus Communication: How to Tell Building Occupants, “We’ve Got This”

As the coronavirus continues to dominate headlines, a lot of people have questions about best practices for cleaning and disinfection in public spaces. (OS1)® organizations have a Pandemic Plan in place to prepare for an outbreak of this nature, and are well equipped to handle additional cleaning loads.

To assist (OS1) teams with communicating their plans to key stakeholders and building occupants within their facilities, we’ve developed this sample communication which you can copy to send as an email or print to post in a public area.

Subject: Cleaning for Coronavirus

Dear [building occupant],

With the Coronavirus at the top of everyone’s minds right now, we wanted to brief you on the cleaning practices used within our facility and the pandemic preparedness plans we have in place. Most importantly, we want to reassure you that our organization uses best-in-class cleaning processes to stop the chain of infection and limit the opportunity for pathogens to spread throughout our building.

As you might know, our organization uses the (OS1)® System, which is a comprehensive, high-performance management system for custodial organizations. Each worker within our department has received extensive training and has been certified to complete specialized tasks within the system. They are kitted with special tools and chemicals for their job function, which includes the use of a germicidal cleaner in an outbreak situation.

As a part of our pandemic planning, we have completed or are in the process of completing the following steps to combat the Coronavirus within our facility/facilities: 

  1. Identified all potential routes of transmission.
  2. Conduct a survey of all direct and indirect contact fomites (high-touch surface areas) throughout our buildings.
  3. Provide custodial workers with additional training and instruction on proper disinfection protocols.
  4. Provide custodial workers on Protect Yourself” training so they understand routes of transmission and how to best protect themselves when cleaning.
  5. Stockpile additional cleaning and disinfection supplies.

It is important to note that at this point, the CDC has not recommended additional disinfection beyond routine cleaning. However, our teams are meeting on a regular basis and are prepared to increase cleaning frequencies when it is deemed appropriate.

We ask for your ongoing cooperation in this effort. Our staff is working diligently to keep high-touch areas cleaned and disinfected, but we encourage you to use wipes placed throughout the building to disinfect community surfaces when cleaning staff aren’t available.

We will continue to monitor the situation and update our cleaning protocols as necessary. 

Again, thank you for your continued support and cooperation.

Sincerely,

<<NAME>>

<<TITLE>>

<<PHONE OR EMAIL>>

Want to KEEP Cleaning Workers? Start Here.

When you were a small kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? A race car driver? A doctor? A park ranger? 

Did you have hopes of joining the millions of people in the professional cleaning industry?

Probably not.

Heck, ask most people in the cleaning industry how they ended up in it, and most will say they fell into it. They answered a job ad, took a second job to pay for a big expense or offered to help out a friend for a weekend.  

Current figures suggest approximately 2.5 million people work as cleaners in the U.S., and that’s probably a conservative estimate. But a lot of the people who begin working in the industry quit shortly after they start. 

This happens for a lot of reasons—reasons you already know. 

It’s hard work. 

It doesn’t pay much. 

It gets little respect. 

Another thing we know? We’d be totally screwed without cleaning workers. Cleaning is essential for any high-performing organization—and society. 

And right now, we’re experiencing a big issue of attracting and retaining talent. In Facility Cleaning Decision’s 2018 Reader Survey, staffing challenges were one of respondents’ top areas of concerns.

Historically low unemployment rates and stricter immigration policies are causing employers to look for alternative solutions, such as reducing frequencies and cross-training employees to cover labor shortages.

Changing Perceptions: It’s More than Just Dirty Work

Cleaning workers are an essential part of an organization. We know that, but in order to change the perceptions cleaning workers have of the work they do requires involvement from others within the organization.

A recent study looked at the social interactions of hospital cleaners and how those interactions impacted their perceived self worth. It looked at what researchers called “valuing acts” that cleaners experienced throughout the day and how those experiences made them feel. 

Researchers stated, “A hospital’s effectiveness depends on the work of the cleaning staff…Those who clean hospitals ensure a safe and sanitary environment for the execution of routine and complicated medical procedures.” (p. 14)

So while the researchers recognized contribution of cleaners, they found their critical role wasn’t recognized by other people in the hospital.

Here’s what they found:

  • Many cleaners recognize the importance of their work and take “great pride” in it. 
  • Their self worth is tied to social encounters they experience on the job — encounters with other people in the building, such as patients, nurses and doctors. 
  • Simple acts, like a doctor or nurse getting out of the way when the cleaner is pushing a cart through the hallway or acknowledging their presence with a simple nod contributes to a cleaning worker feeling valued.
  • On the opposite side, acts like not cleaning up after themselves (e.g. not picking up paper that has fallen beside the waste basket or a spill for which they’re responsible) along with not involving them in a hospital wide event may contribute to the cleaners feeling unappreciated.

Ultimately, seemingly small gestures can leave a big impact on cleaning workers and can help them feel more valued—or devalued—within an organization.

How can we KEEP more cleaning workers?

Few people grow up wanting to be in the cleaning industry. The goal is to KEEP them in our industry once they get here. 

How can you do this? Try following the KEEP acronym:

Keep employees at the forefront. Take the time to talk to your staff members and get to know them. Listen to them and learn the names of people in their families. Ask them questions and show you’re interested in them as a person, not just as a work. 

Explain the importance of what they do. Help them understand the importance of their role. Make sure they know that cleaning isn’t just about helping a building look nice, but it’s about keeping people in that building stay healthy and safe too.

Empower them with training and advancement opportunities. Cleaning workers are one of the best customer service tools in your building. Empower them with training so they understand how to interact with others in the building and strategies to do their jobs better so they can be promoted and grow within their career. 

Preach their importance to other people in the building. In a hospital, that might be doctors and nurses, in a school, that could be students and teachers. The key is that other people in the facility have a greater appreciation for how cleaning workers help them. 

Studies routinely show that more engaged workers are higher performing. Showing workers that you truly value them will help KEEP them on your team in a competitive job market. 

Check it out!

The short film “Keepers of the House” aims to highlight the importance cleaning workers. Developed to educate others in a hospital about the vital role housekeeping/custodial workers play in developing an environment of care, the film will be used as a learning tool to help create better, stronger businesses.